Alaska News Nightly: October 4, 2010

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Denali Pipeline Closes Open Season
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Monday, the Denali Pipeline closed its Open Season offering.  For the past 90 days, the company has offered space to shippers on its project that would deliver natural gas from the North Slope to North American markets.

Denali President Bud Fackrell says the company has received a significant number of bids – however they came with conditions that still need to be negotiated in private with companies wanting to use the line.

Fackrell says some of the conditions are out of Denali’s control, but declined to confirm whether they would need intervention by the state.  He said there were no surprises among the bids – the company had talked to potential shippers over the Open Season period and knew what to expect at closing time.

Fackrell says the project is based on market conditions and a final decision on whether to continue will come after the company and bidders determine future market conditions.

Denali’s competitor, TransCanada Pipeline, working with its partner Exxon closed its Open Season offering at the end of July.  Denali is a joint venture between BP and ConocoPhillips.

Alaska Tribal Adoption Case Will Not Go to Supreme Court
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The U.S. Supreme court has denied hearing an Alaska tribal adoption case, ending a four-year legal battle between the state and the Kaltag tribal council.

Although the case was first litigated in 2006, the legal opinion that prompted the state’s challenge dates back to 2004, when then Attorney General Greg Renkes issued an opinion stating tribal courts did not have the authority to initiate cases, only to take them if referred from state court. Native American Rights Fund attorney Natalie Landreth argued the case for Kaltag.

Landreth says the Supreme Court reaffirmed what had been decided in an older tribal court appeal stating the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA created “concurrent but presumptively tribal jurisdiction.” Landreth says there is a long tradition of tribal court authority over domestic relations of their tribal members.

State senior assistant attorney general Peter Putzier says jurisdiction over members is at the heart of why the state continued challenging the case through several appeals. Putzier says ICWA is not clear about whether tribal courts have jurisdiction over members of other tribes or non native people.

NARF’s Landreth says the end of this case does not diminish the state court concurrent authority with tribal courts but she says tribal councils and courts are the first responders in their communities when children need protection and it’s important for the “presumptively tribal” aspect of ICWA to be followed. She says in the Kaltag case, the council took custody and found a safe home for a child who had been living in abhorrent conditions. She says state and tribal courts can complement each other, but even after the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the state’s case, there is a system wide problem.

Putzier wouldn’t say if the state would consider rescinding the Renkes opinion but he says the state is developing an ICWA memorandum that would be a working agreement with tribes as a template for cooperation.

A similar case from Tanana is currently in front of the Alaska Supreme Court. It’s not yet known how that decision will impact future state and tribal court proceedings. Putzier says the DC law firm of Latham and Watkins worked on the state’s failed Kaltag appeal to the U.S. Supreme court. The case cost $105,000 to prepare.

Mendenhall Iceberg Headed to Washington DC
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
A 1,500 pound iceberg plucked from Mendenhall Lake last week is on its way to Washington, D.C. for this month’s USA Science and Engineering Festival. The Juneau Economic Development Council along with the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory will have a booth at the event called “Alaska’s Cool Cryosphere.”

Environmental Measure Tops Ballot in Fairbanks Election
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Fairbanks Borough voters face two propositions on Tuesday’s municipal election ballot.  Proposition A would prevent the borough from banning, or fining residents for using polluting heating devices.  It’s aimed at an air quality ordinance passed by the assembly in June that includes nominal pollution fines, and a ban on purchase and installation of non Environmental Protection Agency approved wood stoves and boilers.  The borough is trying to get into compliance with E.P.A. fine particulate pollution regulations that are regularly violated in areas of Fairbanks during cold weather inversions.

Proposition A co-sponsor and state representative Tammie Wilson says the initiative was put on the ballot by citizen’s concerned about enforcement of pollution measures at a time when people are struggling to afford to heat their homes.

Last fall borough voters supported a ballot proposition that put control of local air quality in the hands of borough government, and Passage of this year’s measure could result in punitive aspects of the program being handled by the state.

The other proposition on borough ballots tomorrow is familiar to local voters.  Prop B re-affirms the existing borough tax revenue cap.  The Interior Taxpayers Association, which originally developed the tax cap and got it on the ballot more than 20 years ago, puts it before voters every two years.

Petersburg Voters to Decide on Smoking Ban
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
On Tuesday, Petersburg voters will decide whether to prohibit smoking in most workplaces and public spaces. Opponents see the measure as an infringement on individual freedom. For supporters, the ban is about the right of employees and the public to breath smoke-free air.

New Form of Government at Stake in Mat-Su Elections
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Matanuska Susitna Borough voters will decide for or against a new form of government when they go to the polls Tuesday.

As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports,  some seasoned  Valley lawmakers say the Borough’s ballot Proposition One is not a good idea.

Unions, Government Wage Ad War in Kodiak
Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
A ballot initiative that would allow city workers to unionize has made Kodiak somewhat of a political battleground between a pair of unions and the city government. The campaign isn’t cheap. The two unions say they’ve spent a combined $13,000 dollars to date while the city’s paid out $16,000 for radio jingles and newspaper ads.

Nose Bleed Turns into Life Threatening Condition for Chevak Man
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
A simple nose bleed became a life threatening condition for a Chevak man on a moose hunting trip last week on a small river near the Bering Sea coast. The man’s nose wouldn’t stop bleeding for over 24 hours, and getting him to medical care was not easy.